Rob Bell caused quite a stir last year with his book Love Wins. The book is provoked by a dilemma that many Christians feel. How could a loving God create billions of humans knowing that most of them will end up in hell. He says,
Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God’s love and God’s judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this “good news?” (Love Wins).
This is a valid concern. Christian trot out various solutions, but most fall short. Rob came up with a different solution. He suggested that God would give people a second charge after death. When people see their lives from an eternal perspective, they will change their attitude and accept God’s love.
Rob’s gets his solution wrong because he begins with a wrong assumption that has been missed by critics and defenders. He makes the same assumption as many Christians.
Most of the people who will live on earth will not be saved.
Once this assumption is accepted, God’s love problem becomes a problem, because it is not consistent with this outcome. However, the problem is not with God’s love. The real problem is a basic assumption that denies the ability of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s purpose.
This wrong assumption comes from assuming that the future will be the same as the past. Because only a minority of people living on earth have come to Jesus up till now, Rob Bell, and most other Christians, assume that the future will be the same. They assume that we have seen the best that the Holy Spirit can do. This belief is wrong.
The Bible teaches that the future will not be the same as the past. The time will come when the glory of the Kingdom of God comes to fulfilment on earth. During that season, most of the people living on earth will choose to be followers of Jesus. Many more people will live on earth during the Kingdom age, so over the whole of history, the vast majority of people who live on earth will find salvation through Jesus. The number lost will be quite small. I explain how this works in Times and Seasons.
Since the time of Jesus, several billion people have come to faith in him, far short of the multitude that John was promised. History will have to go on for much longer for this countless multitude to be brought in.
If the world were to end now, the number of people lost would far exceed those who are saved. This score makes God seem quite mean, as the vast majority of people who have lived on earth would go to eternal destruction. This impression is wrong, because it judges God’s performance on the first half of the game, when half the team is missing and the coach is seriously constrained.
By the time the game is complete, the score will have changed dramatically. During the second half, most of those who live on earth will be saved and only a minority lost. The second half could be five times longer than the first half, so the total saved will be enormous. The few billion people lost during the Times of the Gentiles will be minute compared to the thousands of billions that will come to Jesus in the future. The final score will be far more respectable, and better reflect God’s character. God is gracious and generous, so he will not be stingy with salvation. He will allow history to continue for long enough to ensure that the number saved will vastly exceed the number who are lost (Times and Seasons p. 108).
Once this truth is understood, Rob Bell’s problem disappears. The huge number of people sharing God’s heavenly glory will be proof of his love. God’s love wins, because the Holy Spirit is a winner, not by lowering the bar.
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